Cuba's black market
JUAN ANTONIO LIZAMA TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Published: December 31, 2008
With inconsistent food rations, meager salaries and lack of access to
materials, Cubans have to circumvent their repressive government system
just to have basic items, said 75-year-old Alfredo, who lives on the island.
"A hundred percent of Cubans are corrupt because they have to find a way
to resolve a thing here and to buy something there behind the
government's back," Alfredo said in a phone interview from Mexico, where
he's on a visa visiting his ailing mother.
He did not want his last name to be published for fear of retribution
when he returns to Cuba this month.
Daughter Mirta M. Martin, who lives in Midlothian, facilitated the call
for a reporter. Ten years ago, with the help of then-U.S. Rep. Thomas J.
Bliley Jr., R-Va., she got her father a U.S. visa, after the now-defunct
Immigration and Naturalization Service denied him asylum. He visits the
U.S. every three years or so.
Alfredo was 27 when Fidel Castro took over. He kept his job as an
architect and earned $16 a month until he retired. His pension is $13 a
He, like 11.4 million other Cubans, gets free health care; a pound of
chicken and 10 eggs a month; two bars of soap for showering and washing
clothes every two months; and grains. The government took away the
clothes handout, he said.
If people want to fix a television set or car, they have to find a
repairman who smuggles parts at the risk of being jailed, Alfredo said.
There are no materials to repair their homes, he said.
Cuba is a beautiful place, but the tourist places mostly are off limits
to nationals, he said.
The changes Raul Castro has implemented are symbolic, Alfredo said.
Cubans are allowed to go to a hotel and to buy computers and cell
phones, but they have to pay in dollars, and no Internet access is
allowed, he said. More changes have been promised, he said.
Cubans support the revolution in public, but they're against it
privately, he said.
"I think there's hope that Cuba will be free. I can't say if it's going
to be immediately or if it will take time," he said.